Still Standing

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This week, while the farm harvests chugged on, I spent all day Monday re-doing the roof on our smaller, three season chicken barn. Yup, the one I built this past summer for our older, aging flock.  As I fabricated awnings for the new fabric roof on Sunday, cutting out one by pine on a jigsaw with the pattern I traced, and then glueing and mounting it to a mitered piece of fir lumber, I ponderded the misinterpretation of my builder-friend's advice when I checked in with him about the curved roof and using the reclaimed trusses: I wondered how the roof went so wrong. We've made a lot of building mistakes, and our projects are just large enough, to get in big trouble. That little carpentry issue, to fix the leaking metal roof with a new 10-year fabric roof, that could bend to the curve of the trailer trusses, was creating some wet chickens, certainly not helping to add to the production of our older flock. The wet chickens were also making wet bedding, and that can lead to a variety of problems, both with the chickens and barn.  

But, by noon on Monday, I had torn off the old roof, installed the oiled awnings, added a perlin to the ridge, reinforced one of the old trailer trusses, and just as it was getting dark, I pulled the fabric roof over the new reflective metallic insulation from our neighbor Brian and, as it was getting dark, I fastened on the fabric with a bit of Mary's help using ladders and our tractor forks as a scaffold.

The next days of mine were spent grilling irrigation experts from around the country as we make decisions on getting water to our crops this season (after our ditch water shuts off on Sunday): putting that new well we had drilled this summer into service. There are hundreds of decisions. I grilled Benjamin, our sales guy from Dripworks for a hour and 45 minutes on the phone. I talked to a local pump expert who wanted me to hire out the project to him at the rate of $115 an hour.  I talked to farmes who had re-done parts of their own irrigation. I spoke to my friend Leon, naturally, and when I explained to Bob Gingrich this afternoon, when I was picking up 80 bales of straw for farm projects (including winter chicken bedding), that we still have crops to irrigate through November, he raised his eyebrows -- all the conventional wisdom alfalfa growers have in our valley is different from our vision of feeding people, and the income requirements for a market farm like ours. I came to the conclusion that we'll need a whole new pumphouse and a variety of frost protection strategies for our new system. I filled a notebook, talked to more people on the phone, and we have another 10 or 20 hours of desk work this weekend before we start ordering and gathering parts and pieces for this new engine of the farm that will help us reduce our labor, weeds, and help us farm on the shoulders, on the edges, and find a model that works for us -- and, of course, you.

Having salad greens into December -- and all we have at market is a feat. We are tired, but we love it all, mostly, and desperately need the income. The parts and pieces of this irrigation system, not inlducing the insulated, very small building, will be in excess of $4000 by the time we are finished. But to do it well, and sustainably, we've learned that we need to put good systems in place. And I'm so fearful of failure. Because we've rebuilt chicken barns; and a new roof; so many things. And becuase people give the best advice, but our systems are new, and sometimes even untested. So, back to my mis-understanding of my friend's advice that led to some of my accidental, but planned carpentry this week. You, and all of us, had made us grow up a bit this season. I don't always like the cautious farmer I'm becoming -- sometimes I even doubt Mary's wisdom too much -- but you've all made us grow wiser and stronger.

Come on out to market tomorrow. We've been hard at work this week, uncovering crops that we've protected with frost cloth for the harvest, and then spending hours re-covering them. And sometimes, making mistakes, covering them again, because we didn't add enough pins or sandbags to keep the cover from blowing off. To keep our peppers from freezing we ran backup heat in one of our tunnels this week and dillengetly made sure that the last of the curing winter squash were protected. This, was a real feat since we are pretty much out of space, with some onions and potatoes under our barn lean to, almost out of the weather, but they are in line behind other stuff that needs space to get into our walkin cooler. The chickens, both barns, also got a solar light setup - a necessity, we've learned, for winter egg production. Given so many out of power in our country, without backup systems, the irony of this didn't escape me.This was the last big item on the barn construction list and I keep telling Mary that we'll need to have a celebration. Don't wait for that though -- come on out and see your farmers today.

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